Sunday, August 16, 2009

Obama White House to Track Gov't Website Users?

I've had an email in my inbox for several days but have not had time to think about it. The ACLU has concerns about the possible change in policy whereby the gov't will begin delivering cookies to computers that go to gov't websites.

OK. So what's the problem?

Well, first, that is not what the rules allows. The current rules don't allow gov't to track users who access gov't websites. Nor should they. That is an invasion of privacy. It is nobody's business if I go to a public website anymore than it is the gov't business where I go to church.

Second, the potential for abuse is just too great. Watch V for Vendetta or Pleasantville & you'll get an idea of the problems that can happen. Better yet, just read about how the Patriot Act is being used.

The biggest problem, however, is not any of the potential breaches of privacy but the very real disregard for the Constitutional protections. If the Constitutional principles are skirted, it becomes easier to cross over that line at some point in the future. At some point it won't be tracking a computer but tracking what books one reads; what sermons one listens to; with whom one discusses politics; or even what a person's politics may be.

I will grant that the official line is that the tracking cookies won't be quite as sinister. According to the UK's Register, the cookies will only be used to better serve the user. While that makes sense & is a great goal, we all know the potential for abuse is just too great. It is simply not a chance we can take.

I also find it quite amusing that the Extreme Right Wing is now on the same side as the ACLU & other groups that protect civil liberty. When the ACLU was condemning the spying on Americans without a warrant, or listening in on phone calls, or snooping personal emails or bank accounts, the Extremists were arguing the Constitutional privacy protections & US laws didn't apply. But now that a Democrat is wanting to simply use cookies to track usage in order to help the user get the information he wants, suddenly the uproar is deafening.

I will be the first to admit the Extreme Right has a good point here & the gov't policy should not be changed. Privacy is a first freedom, guaranteed in the Bill of Rights. My challenge to the Extreme Right is to be consistent. The ACLU has held the same position all along. Will the Extreme Right admit their hypocrisy? I doubt it.

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